My Top 10 Tips For Flying With A Baby

The First

I had a question yesterday from Amna about flying with newborns and babies. “Can you do a post on travelling with a newborn? I may have to travel long distance with a 4 week old next year and am very, very nervous about it!” I said I’d get on to it. When I began to write a few things down it all began to feel a bit familiar. And then I remembered I’d already written the post.


When I eventually tracked down the old post it was on the old forum and it all looked a bit messy, so I’ve done some updates and I’m republishing it today. The only bummer is that there were some great tips from you guys that I’ve lost in the comments (much better than mine). So if you’ve got a minute and would like to give Amna some advice please leave a comment.

Those of you who are travelling with babies know that whether it’s ten minutes in the car, or ten hours in the sky, the process is similar. Throw in as much as you can and pray for the gods of sleep to look upon you.

First things first though, for those of you who are pregnant and flying – to avoid major disappointment, make sure you have a letter from your doctor giving you the okay to fly. And if anyone is traveling without their partner, you may need a letter from them giving you the okay to fly. I know for me it gets tricky as my children have a different surname to me, recently when I flew to London unexpectedly without G and I nearly didn’t make it into the country. It’s not worth being unprepared.

I have about nine hundred and ninety five squillion tips for flying with children, but here’s ten if you’re travelling with a child or toddler over the break.

1.     Get yourself a compact travel stroller. I know you love that big fancy one, but you’re going to need something that folds fast and flat. Try and negotiate keeping it with you until you board the plane, if the airline ask’s to take it, ask for a courtesy stroller.

2.     While you’re online checking your seats (I always prefer the window with a baby) see if you can find where the baby change rooms are at both the airport you are leaving and landing in. I know this sounds ridiculously organized but I have been the victim of so many baby poonamis (that’s when the poo explodes and ends up in the crevices of your baby’s underarms and neck) and projectile vomits that require more than a baby wipe to clean up the debris.

3.     Wear slip on shoes and no belt. Those knee high zip up boots are going to drive you crazy when going through airport security.

4.     Find a baby-sling with a zip up pocket. You can keep your boarding pass, an extra couple of nappies/diapers, wipes, visa card and some cash in there. You’ll want to keep your hands free for any paperwork, or schlepping of luggage, or better still, last minute airport shopping.

5.     If you’re not breastfeeding make sure you have a bottle ready for accent and decent on the plane, the sucking will equalize your baby’s ears. It’s also always handy to have a bottle of water, just incase you can’t get your feeding time to match that of the airline schedule. Get the water after you’ve gone through security. Unless your baby is a fan of spicy trail mix, don’t rely on the airline for snacks.

6.     Keep yourself hydrated, flying sucks the moisture out of every particle of your body, this is the same for your baby. You may find the baby requires an extra drink than usual.

7.     If you’re flying long haul ask for a bulkhead or bassinet seat, that extra leg room, or a chance for your baby to sleep flat will be a godsend by about the third hour into your flight.

8.     Use a baby wrap to keep around your baby while they’re in the sling, this can then double as a blanket on the flight, or roll into a ball as a small pillow. Don’t forget to pack a bib, it can save you two sets of clothes.

9.     G loves to get on the plane first, but when it comes to babies/toddlers I think it’s better to get on last. What worked for us was for him to go ahead with bags and secure the space, and me to jump on later to reduce the time that we were sitting around with squirmy child.

10.     It gets cold on the plane, a pashmina may be your best friend if you don’t want to pack unnecessary clothing.

My biggest tip though, is this. Plan on everything going pear shaped. And I don’t mean stress yourself out thinking of all the things that could go wrong, I mean keep a thought in the back of your mind that things may not go exactly to plan. This way when they refuse to let you take your stroller to the aircraft after they’d promised you could over the phone, and the plane is delayed, and you don’t get the seat that you were promised, you won’t be disappointed. You’ll be ready.

Okay, so I want to hear from you now. What are your top tips for travelling with babies? And yes, ordering a double upon take-off should be number one.

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  1. Pack a change of clothes (everything!!) for everyone in your carry-on. Our darling daughter vomited more that you would think possible on one flight and we had a change of clothes for her (of course) but nothing for both me and my husband. It was disgusting, and we had to transit in Bangkok for a few hours before getting another flight to our next destination.

  2. shewhohastravelled says

    Spare thin tshirts for Mommy, and a cardigan over it… Just keep baby in jammies or one piecers, comfy, easy to roll up and pack small in the carryon (bring lots just in case!), and can unzip in one motion if a change is need (no need to keep track of socks and shoes then too..).

  3. Try not to worry about what others are thinking when your baby cries, just do what’s best for bub. The first time my screamer lost it, I thought I would die from the stress. It wasn’t during the commotion of boarding when crying can be drowned out but during the hushed quiet of just before take off. A lovely Australian couple were sitting behind me & the lady leaned over & said “we’ve all been there love”.

  4. I travelled with a 12 week baby and found it easy because of baby sling and breastfeeding. Nothing required to carry on at all! Just a wrap that is still Ms 9’s favourite blanket to this day. However, 4 weeks postpartum is not very long so go easy on yourself! Keep yourself well hydrated.

    Tip not actually to do with flying… the hardest part might be getting baby’s birth certificate and passport quickly enough.. was quite the process for us as in Canada it’s standard 10 weeks for birth certificate to even arrive. Had to make a LOT of phone calls. Go right to your Member of Parliament (or whatever you have where you live!) if you can’t get it quickly enough.

    Best travel tip for feeling overwhelmed is to go right to the Guest Services at check in and squeeze out a single tear (real or fake 🙂 and let them know you would appreciate any help you can be given. Did that numerous times travelling long haul with 3 and got all sorts of kind help! Golf cart ride to the far-away gate, special flight attendant help, extra snacks, baby holders, you name it, stroller gate checked, etc. Never asked but you can always try for a free upgrade to premium economy or even first. They can only say no!!

    We are flying Canada – Australia in December on Etihad who have in-flight nannies. Who knew! Don’t need them now I have 9, 16 and 18 but sure could have used them back in the day…

  5. Oh and save that gorgeous hand stitched dress with matching shoes that Grandma sent for when you get there!!! NO prizes for baby fashion statements on the plane. Babygro (onesie) is the only way to travel!!

    Unless Anna is really Kim Kardashian in which case fashion is important 🙂 LOL

    • I have actually come around on this one after someone pointed out that cute clothes can make up for a certain amount of either a) misbehaviour or b) gloomy predictions of misbehaviour on the part of strangers. I tried it and noticed that people do react differently (better) to well-turned-out children. Although on the other hand we do tend to go through changes of clothes, so you have to be flexible, too.

      • hey bronwyn, that is a very good point 🙂 never thought of that! bring on the smocked frilly dress! i was thinking that i’ve heard from mums going to visit MIL with new baby and feeling that they must land with baby in the gifted heirloom outfit with shoes, socks and matching hair bow. waaaaay to much pressure.

        happy travels!

  6. Oh my gosh Kirsty, you provide good service!! It is just one day after a comment and I get a whole blog post! Feeling so much more confident now, thank you!

  7. Oh oh! So I have written some of this down over at my blog and I have had some great comments from other travelling parents. Can I put a link here? This is our collective wisdom:

    But by and large I agree that it’s a bit like taking a ten-minute car trip only way longer than ten minutes and not by car. So don’t freak out!

    (Oh. The stroller is a controversial one. To take or not, to check or not… but in any case compact is better than not-compact.)

  8. when kids are already standing up and walking but too small to understand its time to sit on plane quietly (between 1 and 3 years old), try to get at the check in the last row of the plane as it is 1) handy for toilet operations, especially if you are attending 2 or more kids while traveling alone t 2) kids can stand up and move around a little in the little space before the toilet. about dressing kids; the easiest stuff to change them and to go through metal detector without ringing, pack a change if your kids usually get sick with car locomotion as the same effect can give a long taxi phase if the airplane is gated far from the runaway

  9. ErgoBaby carrier – has pouch on front for your paperwork, is comfy and supportive for both mum and baby, and (TMI but useful) easy enough to go to loo with baby still being worn (especially important if you can’t find a disabled/parents toilet and travelling alone).
    Good cotton wraps – double as blankets, nursing cover, pillow etc etc.
    Check what you’re allowed to take through security with a baby – many places will let you take liquids etc even though usually a big no no.
    From around four months – hand puppets. Often have other kids interested enough to keep several amused and then let them amuse each other.
    Good luck.

  10. For 1 year old (or when the baby is too big for the normal carrier) use a back carrier (the ones that look like a back pack) as you can take this onto the plane so no issues with having to carry your child while carrying all the other luggage if you have a stop over.
    Also I used to take spare clothes for everyone (still do), and often have the kids in pj’s on the plane.
    And if any option, fly with an Asian or middle eastern carrier as the crew is typically great with kids. Most flights our kids are in the back of the plane, playing with the crew for a significant time.

  11. Babyzen Yoyo stroller! You can put in overhead luggage cabin! It’s amazing, especially when traveling alone

  12. Taking the car seat on the plane was always a winner travelling with small kids. Strap them in and they can sleep comfortably, you can get up and go the bathroom without them and they are so used to sitting in the car not moving around that they are ok with it on the plane. iPads (of course now they are everywhere), but back in the day sticker and colouring books and lots of little snacks worked well entertaining them during those long 16 hour flights. Happy days.

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